64

In The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, IV A Journey in the Dark, Gandalf explains:

The wealth of Moria was not in gold and jewels, the toys of the Dwarves; nor in iron, their servant. Such things they found here, it is true, especially iron; but they did not need to delve for them: all things that they desired they could obtain in traffic. For here alone in the world was found Moria-silver, or true-silver as some have called it: mithril is the Elvish name. The Dwarves have a name which they do not tell. Its worth was ten times that of gold, and now it is beyond price; for little is left above ground, and even the Orcs dare not delve here for it. The lodes lead away north towards Caradhras, and down to darkness. The Dwarves tell no tale; but even as mithril was the foundation of their wealth, so also it was their destruction: they delved too greedily and too deep, and disturbed that from which they fled, Durin’s Bane. Of what they brought to light the Orcs have gathered nearly all, and given it in tribute to Sauron, who covets it.

Why did Sauron desire mithril? What did he use it for?

  • 65
    What does Sauron need with a starship? – Adamant Sep 27 '16 at 19:48
  • 44
    Because he wants to look fabulous. – Valorum Sep 27 '16 at 20:05
  • 7
    Maybe he hoarded it not to use it himself, but just so others couldn't use it (against him). – GolezTrol Sep 28 '16 at 9:30
  • 9
    Perhaps it is... precious... to him? – djm Sep 28 '16 at 14:53
  • 8
    I don't think there's any direct answers to this question, but I still think it's funny to ask what the Valar of blacksmithing, order and creation would want with the world's most precious metal.. Make ring-mail sock puppets? – NachoDawg Sep 29 '16 at 11:04

10 Answers 10

88

Presumably for weapon-making

In an early draft of Fellowship, Tolkien wrote a margin note saying:

Mithril is now nearly all lost. Orcs plunder it and pay tribute to Sauron who is collecting it - we don't know why - for some secret purpose of his weapons not for beauty.

History of Middle-earth 7 The Treason of Isengard Chapter IX: "The Mines of Moria (1): The Lord of Moria"

And Christopher Tolkien remarks in a note:

Another draft puts this slightly more fully: 'They give it in tribute to Sauron, who has long been gathering and hoarding all that he can find. It is not known why: not for beauty, but for some secret purpose in the making of weapons of war.'

History of Middle-earth 7 The Treason of Isengard Chapter IX: "The Mines of Moria (1): The Lord of Moria"

But we don't see Sauron's armies using any mithril weapons, so we don't know what he actually ended up doing with it. As far as we know, he just stored it in a giant warehouse near Barad-dûr for his "personal use".

  • 16
    @ATB Fellowship II.4: "'Mithril! All folk desired it. It could be beaten like copper, and polished like glass; and the Dwarves could make of it a metal, light and yet harder than tempered steel. Its beauty was like to that of common silver, but the beauty of mithril did not tarnish or grow dim. The Elves dearly loved it, and among many uses they made of it ithildin, starmoon, which you saw upon the doors." – Jason Baker Sep 27 '16 at 19:57
  • 25
    Or to stop the elves and dwarves making weapons out of it. – Valorum Sep 27 '16 at 20:06
  • 3
    Its more likely to be stored in a small warehouse. Or a wardrobe in his guest bedroom. There wasn't a lot of mithril even to begin with. – JK. Sep 27 '16 at 21:48
  • 12
    > There wasn't a lot of mithril even to begin with When it was mined it was only ten times more valuable than gold and it was the source of Moria's wealth. Remember how much gold there was in Smaug's lair? I wouldn't expect total amount of Mithril be less than 1/10 of that. – Daerdemandt Sep 27 '16 at 23:38
  • 3
    @JasonBaker re "personal use", the implications of "Sauron doesn't wear pants" will take some working through – Tom Goodfellow Sep 28 '16 at 1:21
39

One possible assumption could be the creation of Grond, the great ram that smashes the gates of Gondor, emphasis mine:

Great engines crawled across the field; and in the midst was a huge ram, great as a forest-tree a hundred feet in length, swinging on mighty chains. Long had it been forging in the dark smithies of Mordor, and its hideous head, founded of black steel, was shaped in the likeness of a ravening wolf; on it spells of ruin lay. Grond they named it, in memory of the Hammer of the Underworld of old.
The Return of the King, The Siege of Gondor

There is no canonic evidence what black steel was made of, as the term occurs rarely. However, we do know Sauron, like his master, enjoys to twist and corrupt things in his attempts to create great war machines.

The same as mithril ressembles silver, it is plausible that the "black steel" could be the dark opposite. After all, the walls and gates of Gondor are mighty strong; to crack open something as powerful, even through its weakest point (the key opening in the gate), it would require both evil runes and great forging.

  • 7
    It is possible, but for a ram you need weight. Mithril was "As light as a feather, and as hard as dragon-scales." – Jeremy French Sep 28 '16 at 8:09
  • 5
    @JeremyFrench From a "techno-magical" point of view, the head only could be of "corrupted" mithril. The main body being "hundred feet in length", it's easy to gain weight through hard wood / iron there and keep the head as resilient as possible. – Tjafaas Sep 28 '16 at 9:03
  • 34
    +1 for a far-fetched but enormously cool conjecture. – Stephan Kolassa Sep 28 '16 at 9:55
  • 9
    Or it could be that the head was made of black steel, which is a very common material in our world - metalsupermarkets.co.uk/blog/… – Pete Kirkham Sep 28 '16 at 10:14
  • 6
    "(...)Dwarves could make of it a metal, light and yet harder(...)". Dwarven armor/weapons-grade Mithril was then not the natural form, just as grade 5 titanium is not pure (pure, unworked Ti being somewhat soft). The heavy "black steel" could just be a different alloy, made with no regard for keeping it lightweight. Good idea with Grond, I had not made the connection. – kaay Sep 28 '16 at 10:48
23

It's because Mithril is a very useful metal - hard and lightweight, easy to beat and polish (see @JasonBaker's comment), and Mairon was originally a Maia of Aule, so he's into those kinds of things.

  • 5
    Interests: power, world domination, rings, engineering, mithrils smithing <3 – No Magic Sep 28 '16 at 12:07
  • 2
    @ATB: Mairon is actually the god of industrial production. – einpoklum Sep 28 '16 at 14:44
  • 1
    @NoMagic - Weaknesses: hobbits and wizards. – void_ptr Sep 28 '16 at 19:37
4

Since Mithril is in essence the strongest metal in the Middle Earth universe,

'light as a feather, harder than dragon scales'

one can assume that Sauron would've wanted it for his military purposes. No point using it for barter since he was going to rule them all so one can calculate that he was intending to do an Ultron from Avengers and make a more superior suit from the material once he retrieved the ring.

1

Mithril has special mystical powers. The Dwarves were able to make seals that opened at the same moon phase.
Sauron was the master craftsman who forged all the rings, in full view of the others, yet was able to cast into them that need to follow the One Ring. So he's crafty beyond measure.
I'm sure Sauron has magical uses for devices and such, and would not waste such a precious thing on warfare - a war he cannot lose.
....now where is that pesky ring

  • Any reason for the downvotes? – Engineer Oct 1 '16 at 21:31
0

This is speculation, sure, but even if he's not interested in using it for his armies, I could totally see it as not wanting his armies to face soldiers armed and armored with Mithril. Without Mithril, the forces of good would be easier to defeat; It's sort of playing the long game. Weaken your enemies weapons, THEN fight the fight, insuring that the strength of the tools of war are not slanted in your enemies favor.

0

We see that Smaug has gathered all of the gold and silver of Dale and the Lonely Mountain and stored it all in a cavern in the mountain, and then do nothing more with it than sleep on it. He has absolutely no use for the stuff, and so his only reason for hoarding it is the pride of taking from others what was theirs, and keeping it away from them.

We also see that Sauron has brought much of Middle-Earth under his sway, but what good does it do him? None. His corrupted moral reasoning drives him to believe that being important is a value, when in reality it's a zero.

It's the same with collecting mithril. It's valued by others (for entirely practical reasons), but his schemes depend so little on acquiring mithril that his interest in gathering it is mostly due to pride.

-2

I think the simplest answer is that he didn't need it, he coveted it. In the Silmarillion we saw his desire for the silmarils, had them crafted into a crown even though it burned him to wear it. Regarding mithril, I always assumed that he wanted it because it was desired by others, and maybe because it was fair to look at, but he would have little practical use for the metal.

  • 1
    Was it Sauron who put the Silmarils in his crown? – Adamant Sep 30 '16 at 21:27
  • 1
    Morgoth had the Silmarils, not Sauron. – jwodder Sep 30 '16 at 22:45
-3

Mithril causes pain to evil creatures, that is why the orcs cannot delve it. I doubt Sauron wanted it for military purposes as none of his minions would touch the stuff. I agree if he found a way to corrupt it (using other metals, like uranium which I read somewhere he could forge), it would be useful perhaps.

I remember bits and pieces from the Silmarillion and other books, like a book on artifacts from the RPG. Seems both elves and dwarves were experimenting with different materials and Sauron was an apprentice with the elves, working metal with them under a different name. This is where he learned to make the One ring. Come to think of it, it is very likely he worked there with Mithril. Perhaps of no use to his troops in pure form, but useful to him or else in adapted ways.

Note, Sauron did not forge all the rings!

  • 3
    Where did you get this information? – Jason Baker Sep 29 '16 at 11:47
  • 1
    Welcome to SFF.SE! Please provide a source for this information. – Skooba Sep 29 '16 at 11:51
  • Hi Fly, welcome to SFF Stack Exchange! Since you appear to be the same person who suggested this edit, I've gone ahead and edited that text into your answer, but note that the edit was initially rejected because you used a different account to suggest it. Please could you merge your accounts by following the instructions here? After that you'll be able to edit your own posts without needing approval from others. – Rand al'Thor Sep 30 '16 at 12:06
-4

As far as I remember from the Sylmarillion, Sauron was a jailor who got corrupted by his first and only prisoner, a true dark lord, to whom Sauron is a weak wannabe. So maybe he's building a mithril cage or cell or somesuch.

Frankly speaking, I think it doesn't matter, plot-wise, what he wants with the metal, the point here really being - it's hard to come by and thus precious.

EDIT: Apparently my memory has been leaky and he wasn't Melkor's jailor, but acted as the one who managed Angband, where other Silmarillion characters were imprisoned.

However, here's another fine reason - he started his career as a servant of Aule, the smith, and there he learned metalwork, among other things. I would suppose, as a metalsmith, he would covet the best metal in the world, especially for crafting.

  • 2
    I am aware of no in-universe evidence that Sauron was ever conceived as a "jailor" to Morgoth. The Silmarillion describes him as "the greatest and most trusted of the servants of the Enemy", but does not assign him any role in the War of Wrath in which Morgoth was imprisoned. – duskwuff Sep 28 '16 at 19:44
  • Ah, you're right, it's been a very long time since I read it. He was called a jailor later, when he managed Angband and held Beren there. – dyasny Sep 28 '16 at 20:32

protected by Möoz Dec 9 '16 at 2:20

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.